Can the Knicks play any defense now?

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The New York Knicks were not a good defensive team on Monday morning — they were 20th in the league giving up 106.3 points per 100 possessions (via Hoopdata). Because they like to run that means giving up an average of 106 points per game, second worst in the league. They were 21st in the league in opponent field goal percentage (using true shooting percentage, which counts for threes and free throws against).

The Knicks may be a better offensive team now, but they got worse on defense.

I can hear Knicks fans now — “It doesn’t matter, we’re going to outscore everyone just like Mike D’Antoni did in Phoenix.” Wrong. Those Suns teams were certainly not great defensive teams but they were average. Their points given up per possession were middle of he pack in the league, the points per game was just higher because of the pace. People thought they were worse than they really were. (And by the way, was that average defense ever enough to get them even to the NBA finals?)

These Knicks have not been as good at defense as those Suns teams. By Monday night, they got worse.

And that starts with Carmelo Anthony himself, as Peter Vecsey points out at the New York Post.

If they’re stationed at center and power forward and Stoudemire goes to block a shot, Anthony will be abused on the switch to the five.

“Worse yet,” explained a GM, “when ‘Melo plays three, he’s not a willing chaser. All his man has to do is run him through picks and he immediately yells ‘switch.’ “

The Knicks may try to start Ronny Turiaf — a willing defender — at the center spot, but with Mozgov now traded the Knicks are woefully thin at the five spot. Amar’e Stoumemire has been playing some five but he will need to play a lot more of it now.

And from that vantage point Stoudemire will see why the Nuggets liked having Nene, Chris “Birdman” Anderson and Kenyon Martin along their font line — three big bodies to block shots and defend the paint because Anthony could get abused defensively on the perimeter.

One guy that can defend and may get some run — Renaldo Balkman. Knicks fans may laugh, but the guy can run the floor and keep up with the pace, plus he is a pretty good defender at the three. Because he can’t shoot a jumper to save his life — he has yet to make a shot from beyond 10 feet this season according to Hoopdata — he may not get a lot of run from Mike D’Antoni.

The Knicks know they need a big center to defend the rim, they had made inquireies about getting one before. Now that has to be priority number one. They need someone to play defense. Because their new superstar does not.

LaVar Ball confronts wrestler at WWE event (video)

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — LaVar Ball has brought his Big Baller Brand from the basketball court to the wrestling ring.

The outspoken father of NBA draft No. 2 pick Lonzo Ball showed up with the newly minted Los Angeles Laker and another son, 15-year-old LaMelo, for a live segment on Monday’s “WWE Raw” at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

During the segment, LaMelo Ball twice used the n-word, which was broadcast over the air. WWE says in a statement to the Los Angeles Times that the language “was not scripted nor reflects WWE’s values.”

For LaVar Ball’s appearance, the ring was decorated with mannequins displaying his Big Baller Brand clothing line. He got in a heated confrontation with WWE wrestler The Miz, and took his shirt off to cheers from the crowd.

Bulls, with Michael Carter-Williams, first team to decline extending qualifying offer to Rookie of the Year

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Just four years ago, Michael Carter-Williams won Rookie of the Year.

Now, the Bulls don’t even see a $4,187,599 qualifying offer as worth extending.

David Kaplan of CSN Chicago:

Credit Sam Hinkie for trading Carter-Williams (to the Bucks) at just the right moment, netting the 76ers a valuable Lakers first-round pick that Philadelphia used to trade up for Markelle Fultz. Carter-Williams hasn’t nearly lived up to the typical production of a former Rookie of the Year.

The Bulls got Carter-Williams far cheaper from Milwaukee, for Tony Snell (who had a breakout year with the Bucks). But Carter-Williams continued to regress in Chicago. It’s just hard for a point guard with such a shaky outside shot, and Carter-Williams’ injuries haven’t helped.

With a smorgasbord of point guards that now includes Kris Dunn and Cameron Payne, the Bulls can move on.

Carter-Williams can probably latch on as a backup point guard somewhere. As an unrestricted free agent, teams will have greater comfort pursuing him. But this is a blow for someone with such a big accolade on his résumé.

Celtics’ reported plan: Sign Gordon Hayward, trade for Paul George

AP Photo/George Frey
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The Celtics are trying to sign Gordon Hayward.

They want to trade for Paul George.

It seems those goals are not mutually exclusive.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

The Boston Celtics are pursuing an aggressive summer plan of sequencing the signing of free agent Gordon Hayward and relinquishing the assets needed to complete a trade for Paul George, league sources told The Vertical.

For salary-cap purposes, Boston wants a Hayward commitment before it can finalize a trade for George and secure the most dynamic free-agent coup in franchise history, league sources said.

For Boston, here’s the hitch: While Indiana believes Boston can offer the best possible package, the Pacers may be unwilling to wait until the start of July free agency on Boston’s timetable and could turn toward making a deal elsewhere for George, league sources told The Vertical.

The Celtics can clear cap space to sign Hayward. They have the ammo to trade for George. They could do both.

But, as covered before, there’s probably not a path to signing Hayward and extending George’s contract.

So, how much would Boston surrender for George on an expiring contract? The risk he walks in a year, particularly for the Lakers, should lower the Celtics’ offer.

Still, Boston could trade for the Pacers star and roll the dice on re-signing him. Playing with Hayward – and Isaiah Thomas and whichever other players the Celtics keep in this arrangement – would be pretty appealing.

Rumor: LeBron James would ‘never’ join Clippers

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The Clippers hired Jerry West, in part, to help lure LeBron James.

But even with LeBron-to-Los Angeles (Clippers or Lakers) rumors swirling, that plan might not even get off the ground.

Mike Wise of The Undefeated on Freddie and Fritz:

I’m going to give you something on this show, and this is breaking news. Nobody else is going to have it.

I got from a very good authority – a very good authority – that LeBron James will never be a Clipper. I can’t tell you who, but I’m going to tell you it’s somebody that knows, and LeBron James will never be a Clipper. I don’t know if that’s because he remembers what the Clippers used to be, or he just doesn’t want to put his lot in there, or he thinks Steve Ballmer is just too animated on the sideline.

He’s never going to be a Clipper. I’m just telling people right now, for your edification. I’m breaking this on the Freddie Coleman and Fitz show.

I don’t believe in “never” in situations like this. As Jerry Seinfeld would say, teams are just laundry. The Clippers can change owners, general managers, coaches, players. LeBron would remain absolutely opposed to joining?

Maybe, but I won’t go that far without knowing his reason for resisting the Clippers. A lot can change between now and 2018, when LeBron can opt out.

One of the Clippers’ biggest selling points was always going to be Chris Paul, LeBron’s close friend. Reading the tea leaves, maybe this is a sign Paul will leave this summer – for the Spurs, Rockets or somewhere else.